U.S. surprises markets with revival of China tariffs

By Brian Casey, AuntMinnie.com staff writer

May 29, 2018 -- In a surprise announcement, the U.S. government on May 29 said it has resumed its plans to levy a 25% tariff on goods manufactured in China. The tariffs could include medical imaging scanners manufactured in the country.

In the announcement, the U.S. government listed a range of grievances against Chinese trade practices, ranging from product dumping to industrial subsidies to forced technology transfer. It noted that Chinese tariffs on U.S. goods are much higher than corresponding U.S. tariffs, and said the U.S. government would "defend America's intellectual property and proprietary technology from theft and other threats" by imposing a 25% tariff on $50 billion in goods made in China that contained "industrially significant technology."

The announcement immediately sent shock waves through global markets, with the Dow Jones industrial average down over 400 points at midday Tuesday. Although the Trump administration first announced the tariffs in April, as recently as a week ago the administration said that tariffs were no longer on the table after significant progress had been made in trade negotiations between the countries.

The tariffs could significantly affect the medical imaging industry, as most of the major radiology modalities appeared on the list of products released in April. The list included CT, MRI, ultrasound, x-ray, and nuclear medicine systems.

In addition to affecting Chinese companies that export products into the U.S., the tariffs could also affect multinational OEMs that have shifted their manufacturing to China to take advantage of lower labor costs. The National Electrical Manufacturers Association (NEMA) said earlier this month that if imposed, the tariffs would cause "collateral damage" to U.S. manufacturers because many vendors either produce their own products in China or source finished goods and components from contractual partners in China.

In the May 29 announcement, the Trump administration said it will release a final list by June 15 of imported products that would be subject to the tariffs. The U.S. government will also by June 30 "implement specific investment restrictions and enhanced export controls for Chinese persons and entities related to the acquisition of industrially significant technology."

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